What I took away from the CrossFit Games

I want to do that… (thanks to games.crossfit.com for the photo)

The CrossFit Games is an impressive display of fitness. The guys and gals are moving heavy – H E A V Y – weight one event and then the next they are running 2.1 miles or some other endurance feat. Last year CrossFit HQ mixed in broad jumps into the competition and I am guessing it is only a matter of time before they do some sort of max height box jump. They have already had events in straight sprints in year’s past and the zig zag event this year…there is not a single activity that is out of scope for the CrossFit Games (other than playing a “traditional sport”).

When watching the events you sometimes forget how impressive these guys and gals are because they make it look so easy.

Watching Cinco 1 yesterday and watching those guys move 405 pounds in the deadlift like it was just a warmup towards their single round max is mesmerizing. Watching Amanda Goodman clean and jerk a lot more than I can is both humbling and inspiring. Watching these same individuals swim with ease and run for distance is simply ridiculous.

The folks at the CrossFit Games are nothing short of freaks of nature.

Sure, many of them have some sort of genetic background that helps them excel, but most, if not the vast majority, simply just plain out-work everyone else. The stories of the multiple workouts per day and the hours these individuals spend at the gym is nuts. If you follow an athlete like Matt Chan on Twitter you know how much he puts into the gym and how he puts even more into his nutrition.

The nutrition and diets these athletes follow is probably more impressive than their workout routines. I think it is pretty safe to say that 99% of us could not follow the diet that many of these athletes follow on a weekly, monthly or even yearly basis to get to the level they are at. It isn’t discussed as much as their workout regimen’s because it isn’t as glamorous or doesn’t sell to the general audience (I don’t know why because I would love to hear more about their diets). Just take a look at Twitter after the Games was complete and Lindy Wall, Lindsey Valenzuela, Talayna Fortunato and others took pictures of their cheats after the Games. Having a piece of chocolate cake to Wall is so epic that she took a picture. Why? Probably because it has been since January or February (when the Open began) that she indulged in something so full of empty calories and sugar like cake.

The whole event is impressive and the athletes are just simply amazing. Amazing.

What can the average person take away from the CrossFit Games? I have a few things I took away…

1. The weight. The first thing that jumps out at me is the weight these individuals can throw around. As I mentioned above: a 405 pound deadlift to the majority of these guys is just working their way to their one round max. And 15 reps at 405? After all the hard work leading up to that event? No problem. When you see an athlete like Josh Bridges struggle to move 405 it hits home how heavy that weight is, even if Lucas Parker makes it look equivalent to when I deadlift 185. How about the ladies clean and jerking well over 200 pounds? I can’t clean 235 and, I think, on a good day I might be able to jerk 235 from blocks, but not after cleaning it.

This is where it really hits home for me: these are the fittest people on the planet. I know many folks look at a triathlete as being the most fit person, but I disagree. Vehemently. A triathlete is no joke, mind you, those athletes are freaks in their own right, but let’s see how many pullups they could do. Or how much could they deadlift, press, squat or how high can they jump. Sure, they excel at long “cardio” exercises but is that really all there is to being fit? I don’t think so.

These CrossFit athletes can run a triathlon (see Camp Pendleton last year) and deadlift 500 pounds and jump 50 inches onto a box. Give me the well rounded athlete any day of the week.

2. Natalie McLain: If you didn’t see her in Cinco 1 you need to go back and watch it. Keep in mind we are talking about the 1% of all athletes, the best of the best. McLain stood in front of a 265 pound bar in Cinco 1 on Sunday and new she couldn’t lift it. I think the announcers said it was like 50 pounds heavier than her listed one round max on deadlift. She bent over and tried to pull it and the weight wouldn’t budge.

McLain attempting to move the weight

McLain attempting to move the weight

Any home sapien would immediately feel bad for her. Her eyes started to well up and she kept looking behind her at her cheering section looking for relief. There she is, standing in front of a packed stadium and in front of countless viewers on the internet and she is just standing there. Her competitors are all moving through the workout, some easier than others, but they are moving. She is just standing there and cannot get past the first rep to get the workout started. Nearly in tears.

I felt awful.

I think we have all been there. Some of us have felt that sort of embarrassment or shame in sporting events when you fail and there is nowhere to hide. Whether it is totally missing that easy fly ball, missing the rim on a free throw or standing in a CrossFit competition knowing full well that you don’t have that movement in your tool bag. It sucks.

In our everyday experience with CrossFit we can always scale. The prescribed weight is too heavy? Fine, knock off a few pounds (or 50). Can’t do handstand pushups? That’s OK, do them from a box or practice your handstand holds. But when you are in a competition, much less the Super Bowl of CrossFit, there is no scaling.

I’m betting on this being McLain’s version of Rich Froning’s rope climb from 2010. I know the Fittest Man on Earth is indestructible in the eyes of many, but don’t forget his escapades with the rope climb in 2010. McLain had just demolished the field the night before in the pullup event and my bet is she comes back stronger next year.

You can only get better through failure and even the best of the best fail.

3. Determination: I personally enjoy watching the team events more than the individual. I have always loved team workouts and have always liked team sports. I think it is more fun to have partners in the suck with you. Someone to help pull you out of the suck and someone you can push up to the top of their game.

So, speaking of the teams; did you see what happened to David Foster of Front Range CrossFit? During the first event of the weekend his hand got caught between two sections of the “worm”. It crushed his finger, breaking it and causing him to go to the hospital to get 15 stitches. But he finished the WOD and since the second WOD (the Iditarod) was immediately following, he finished that, too, before going to the hospital.

Foster's 1 arm snatch (thanks to FRCF for the pic)

Foster’s 1 arm snatch (thanks to FRCF for the pic)

Oh, and he snatched 140 pounds, one handed, to keep his team in the competition. He couldn’t do much on the legless rope climbs for obvious reasons, but his team kept competing.

Never once did Front Range CrossFit consider stepping out of the games and Foster sure as hell wasn’t going to bow out. He was going to compete and compete hard. And he did.

It is that kind of determination that speaks volumes towards the kind of athletes who compete at that level. They fight through pain… maybe not broken bones, but general soreness. You ask any athlete at that level (and professional level, really) and they will say that they are always hurting. Their joints always hurt, muscles always ache and they keep on keepin on.

It is that kind of determination that has re-lit a fire under me to clean up my diet (again) and keep pushing myself at the gym.

4. Goals: Hmm, let’s see, what goals did I take away from this weekend?

  1. I want to be able to do a free standing handstand…and then walk on my hands
  2. I want to deadlift 400 pounds (I added 100 pounds last calendar year, time to add another 100)
  3. I want a FREAKING MUSCLE-UP. Just one, pretty please?
  4. Snatch 200 and C&J 225
  5. I would like a sub 25 minute 5k
  6. If I am going to snatch 200 I guess I better be able to overhead squat 200 (pretty close to this goal)

Just watching the Games should give everyone who is serious about CrossFit some goals. It just so happens that the beauty of CrossFit, if done properly, is that you can track your progress to meeting those goals. Anyone who CrossFits – EVERYONE – should be tracking their workouts, their personal best lifts and re-doing those workouts, testing your one round max and tracking your continued improvement.

Those are the four main takeaways for me after watching nearly every event this past weekend. It is going to be a long year waiting for the 2014 CrossFit Games.

One final thing I took away from the CrossFit Games: how much fun it is to compete. I need to check the calendar for the next competition and go have some fun in the sport of fitness.

PS – Foster should have won the Spirit of the Games award. Sure Kristin Clever had a bad ankle, but she could still walk. Foster couldn’t even pick up a Kill Cliff in his bad hand and he kept moving on. Or give the award to the entire Front Range team, they deserved it. Foster demonstrated the spirits of the game more than anyone else this weekend. Some might think I am being a homer, but giving it to Clever (and after she got a special exemption to compete in the games…she didn’t qualify like everyone else) might be an example of HQ being a homer.

3 comments on “What I took away from the CrossFit Games

  1. B says:

    You have never watched an ITU race… 17 min/mile swim 40k bike with attacks/hills and counter attacks and a sub 30 10k run…

  2. […] remember her from the 2013 Games when she couldn’t life the deadlift weight on the final day (item #2 on my blog about the Games in 2013). Newhart, formerly McLain, won a local event here in Colorado around Thanksgiving and had a strong […]

  3. […] My top five: Camille Leblanc-Bazinet, Amanda Goodman, Margeaux Alvarez, Tiffany Hendrickson and Natalie Newhart. In that order. CLB will run away with this region. I think the lighter weekend (only one really heavy WOD) will favor Newhart who dominated the Open in the body weight type WODs. I also saw her compete against Andrea Ager at the Turkey Challenge last November and she won that match up, too. I like Newhart to make it back to the Games and see how she improves over her performance from two years ago. […]

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